shakespeare's sister: another blog about music

Change of address!
May 6, 2010, 10:08 pm
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Album: “Timescape” – The Portraits
April 17, 2009, 3:14 pm
Filed under: Album Reviews | Tags: , ,

The Portraits – Timescape – Sensory Pulse Records – September 29 2008

On the cover of Timescape, a tiny redheaded toddler stands on a giant sundial as a vast landscape stretches behind her. This marriage of time and nature is the defining theme of Anglo-Irish folk group The Portraits’ second and latest record, a blissfully varied collection of songs brimming with subtle emotions and an array of eclectic instruments.

The best thing about Timescape is that it doesn’t evoke an immediate reaction. My first listen was a nonchalantly unimpressed wade through the 40 minutes that make up the record, and it made very little impact – but on each listen since I’ve been able to uncover something subtle that I love in each pithy little song. Perhaps saying so isn’t really professional in the sense that album reviews are supposed to be – after all, aren’t we supposed to remain somewhat objective?

But this is exactly the point of Timescape. It allows us to throw away our inhibitions and freefall into an unexplored world, forging a very real personal connection with Jeremy and Lorraine Millington, the brains behind The Portraits who also have a deeply personal connection themselves, as creative collaborators for more than a decade and, more recently, husband and wife.

The intro and verse of the opening track ‘Poppy Song’ are not particularly striking, but the delicate warmth of The Portraits comes flooding in as soon as the bright chorus hits. Lorraine’s breezy vocals, reminiscent of early Andrea Corr, are beautifully underscored with the simple accompaniment as she paints an evergreen picture: “tell me eternal green / under your endless sky / how you are so serene / knowing all the truth you hide?”

This melding point of nature and time is explored further in the nine tracks following, awash in both cynicism and hope. From the facelessness of celebrity in the darker flavour of ‘Fame’ to the finiteness of life explored through earthen metaphor in ‘Precious Red’, Jeremy and Lorraine offer a fresh outlook on both the bright and dark sides of life using mental scenery created both through words and music.

The employment of instruments such as cellos, ethnic flutes and trumpets, as well as the usual piano and guitar, makes Timescape an experience that really fits its name. It seems to borrow from world music, with African-inspired bongos providing the beat for many of the songs. In both a musical and lyrical sense, Timescape shows intelligence and diversity – focusing on all aspects of life to which anyone can relate, it also focuses on different facets of musical composition and innovation.

‘Real World’ illustrates this perfectly – beginning with a harmonised refrain, it proceeds to lurch into an upbeat ditty about the transition from childhood into adulthood whilst a jangling percussion ensemble rattles cheerily over an effervescent harmony. Though the subject matter is far from cheery, The Portraits make it gorgeously listenable – and make me think that maybe “progressing into the real world” won’t be so bad.

There are some questionable decisions sometimes, such as the very mechanical-sounding drum fade at the start of ‘Poppy Song’ which detracts from the lithe feeling of the rest of the song, and the production of the songs could do with more polishing as it feels a little rough around the edges at times. But sometimes it’s this rawness that makes it feel the most personal, like an honest poem scribbled hastily on a piece of paper.

If this record doesn’t strike you straight away, don’t give up hope – I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but it is overflowing with so much promise and passion. Put it on your iPod and take a walk down to a lake or river on a warm day, and sit there soaking in the world around you and the radiance of this music. I promise you it will be worth the effort.

01. Poppy Song
02. Fame
03. Autumn
04. Bitter
05. Precious Red
06. Real World
07. See Through You
08. Shield
09. Virtual
10. Windfall

DOWNLOAD: Poppy Song (m4a)

Giselle is extremely irresponsible with money. But loves Paul and Art too much to properly care.
April 17, 2009, 12:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Darling readers,

See that face? That is the 10:30am face of Giselle A. Nguyen who, in a flurry of reckless passion, purchased tickets to see Simon & Garfunkel. For $285. For one ticket.

However I will be seeing them TWICE in just a bit over two months! (Add a few extra billion of those for effect).

That little bank card that I’m holding is not going to be impressed though. We’re in a recession! I’m a struggling arts student! I don’t have a steady income!

Fuck, I really can’t properly justify this, can I?

Do not try this at home. No really, don’t.

Tour News: NOFX/Bad Religion
April 15, 2009, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

I don’t know about you, but a large chunk of my teenage years was marked by one word: ANARRCHHYYYYYY! And whilst I wore my wrist cuffs and black eyeliner and Chuck Taylors and Sex Pistols shirt, there were two bands that I listened to religiously: NOFX and Bad Religion. No really, RELIGIOUSLY. Linoleum supports my head…

Well it looks like it’s my 15 year old self’s lucky day, because these two seminal 90s punk rock bands are heading to Australia, TOGETHER, this September. Don’t miss out on tickets to what promises to be a fierce punk show featuring two bands who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.

Tickets available from April 24 through your usual outlets.

Thu September 24: Metro City, Perth
Sun September 26: Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Mon September 27: The Palace Theatre, Melbourne
Tue September 28: The Palace Theatre, Melbourne
Thu September 30: Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Sat October 2: Brisbane Riverstage, Brisbane

Album: “Glorio” – McKisko
April 9, 2009, 5:54 am
Filed under: Album Reviews | Tags: ,

McKisko – Glorio – El Nino El Nino/Inertia – March 21 2009

Brisbane singer-songwriter Helen Franzmann has one of those delicate girly voices that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a dark room by yourself with a ghostly presence lingering nearby. That voice is the focal point of her debut album Glorio where, under the name McKisko, she shares her haunting visions.

An unexamined listen to the album’s nine songs would suggest that McKisko is simply another singer-songwriter project that sails along calmly in the general folk vein, but a closer inspection reveals that the simplicity of these tracks is actually quite deceptive.

Whilst most of the tracks fall into a familiar guitar/piano/voice structural ground, it still manages to avoid triteness – ‘Thankful Tangle’ is a gorgeously straightforward song with a simple acoustic accompaniment, and the beautiful ‘Marcel’ is a stripped-back moment of introspection, with a distant trumpet and acoustic guitar providing companionship to Franzmann’s utterances to a clandestine lover. Often it’s this modesty in composition that allows the sombre lyrics to really take effect, whether they be dark moments of morbidity or innermost secrets spilled into song.

The more unconventional tracks employ a wide range of instruments – opener ‘How We Are’ begins with an uncomplicated electric ostinato accompanying Franzmann’s musings on escapism, but culminates in an atmospheric mixture of glockenspiel, cello, bowed guitar and spooky background vocals and buzzes that swirl steadily on as Franzmann’s dreamy voice fades. Similarly, an eclectic mix of tin drum, hand claps, brass, strings and melodica can be found on ‘A Difficult Crossing’, the album’s most upbeat and experimental moment.

At just over half an hour, Glorio is not an exaggerated album but rather one that presents its ideas with vulnerable precision. As a debut it is a markedly fine effort with some confident forays into previously unexplored territory, and serves as a fitting introduction to an up-and-coming talent.

01. How We Are
02. The Hollow Boat
03. Jackson Curse
04. A Difficult Crossing
05. Undertow
06. Marcel
07. Silence Slowly
08. Thankful Tangle
09. Into the Night

DOWNLOAD: Thankful Tangle (mp3)

Film feature: “Method in the Madness”
April 7, 2009, 12:24 pm
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , ,

Interview for Mink Magazine

He went from being an assassin gangster one day to a mute rapist the next. He’s plotted conspiracies against great political leaders and, most recently, has become a smooth criminal – guns, drugs, women, the whole shebang.

So how exactly has he managed to pull off all these gritty acts without securing himself a nice little spot in prison or, as a matter of fact, any reprimand from the criminal justice system at all?

The answer is simple – Paul Winchester is an actor with the most dedicated intentions to make his unconventional roles believable.

Continue reading

Album: “Mr. Lucky” – Chris Isaak
April 7, 2009, 5:47 am
Filed under: Album Reviews | Tags: ,

Chris Isaak – Mr. Lucky – Wicked Game/Reprise – February 24 2009

Channel [V] and Max Music recently welcomed me on board as a reviewer for their websites, and have just sent me my first record to critique. Upon opening the package and being met by a copy of Chris Isaak’s Mr. Lucky, I winced – but then realised great lol-potential in it. So secretly, I was hoping this album would be all kinds of terrible, because I wanted to be amazingly hilarious and witty and start this review with the line “Baby did a bad, bad thing by making this record”.

But unfortunately for me – and fortunately for self-proclaimed lucky crooner Mr. Isaak – it’s actually not that bad.

The man behind pre-00’s hits ‘Wicked Game’ and ‘Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing’ (which I haaaaated as an eleven-year-old) is back with his first album of original material in seven years. Mr. Lucky offers 14 songs spanning genres from blues to country to rock to just plain good old pop, all of which are accented with his sweepingly grandiose voice and its dynamic range.

The album opens with a rattling twang before Isaak launches into the controlled rollick of ‘Cheater’s Town’, followed by the more introspective and heart-wrenching sob story that is ‘We Let Her Down’. Isaak’s voice is a great conveyer of emotion, ranging from a quiet croon to a heavily passionate sonority. He also uses his manly charm to woo not one, but two popular chanteuses on this record – Trisha Yearwood joins the party on the mushy I-miss-you ballad ‘Breaking Apart’, whilst Michelle Branch lends her breezy vocals to ‘I Lose My Heart’.

Isaak doesn’t limit himself to the downbeat sappy ballads, though, showcasing a number of genres on the album. ‘We’ve Got Tomorrow’ adopts a simple country feel coupled with jangling guitars and a steady percussion thud, with some feel-good brass kicking in halfway through, whilst ‘Very Pretty Girl’ oozes some serious skeeze with Isaak’s now seductive voice beckoning in any ladies who might be listening. The fantastic ‘Take My Heart’ is a Nat King Cole flavoured retrospective that calls to mind silent movies and top hats, and Vegas comes to you with the album’s swing finale ‘Big Wide Wonderful World’ – jazzy saxes, slow finger-clicking vocals and all.

But the main critical point that really emanates from this record is that, overall, I’m not convinced that it will help Isaak win over a new generation of fans. Though the production is crystal clear, there is something about his lyrical and musical composition that can be incredibly (and seemingly unironically) ‘80s, more often than not verging on cringe-worthy.

Take, for example, ‘You Don’t Cry Like I Do’ – if the song title itself wasn’t enough, consider these lyrics: “You don’t cry, cause you don’t need me now, you don’t want me / You don’t want me, you don’t love me / That’s what kills me”. Team that up with a delicate tinkering piano and soaring guitars, as well as layered male vocals culminating in a syrupy plead of a bridge, and you have yourself some grade-A cheese. Obviously any ballad will have at least a slight element of corniness, but Isaak really outdoes himself in this capacity, resulting in an album containing many moments that really should have been left in the ‘80s.

So I was right and wrong in my initial preconceptions of this record – whilst Chris Isaak didn’t do a great thing, it wasn’t a bad, bad one either. For long-time fans, Mr. Lucky contains the genre-hopping that you’d expect, with some really wonderful moments, but for newcomers or naysayers, it may not be enough to sway you. Perhaps if Isaak dropped the cheese he’d be able to achieve some songwriting worthy of sharply focused attention – the upbeat and creative songs on this record show that the potential’s certainly not lacking.

01. Cheater’s Town
02. We Let Her Down
03. You Don’t Cry Like I Do
04. We’ve Got Tomorrow
05. Breaking Apart (with Trisha Yearwood)
06. Baby Baby
07. Mr. Lonely Man
08. I Lose My Heart (with Michelle Branch)
09. Summer Holiday
10. Best I Ever Had
11. We Lost Our Way
12. Very Pretty Girl
13. Take My Heart
14. Big Wide Wonderful World

DOWNLOAD: Take My Heart (m4a)